Today, Lionel Messi and his father Jorge—the latter who oversaw his son’s finances—were both convicted of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities for €4.1 million. They were given a suspended sentence of 21 months in prison, which will not result in any actual jail time.
Because of how the legal system in Spain works, any prison sentence under a two-year term for a first-time offender is automatically suspended with the convicted party being placed on probation. Thus, Messi is not in danger of being locked up or missing any time on the pitch for his club, Barcelona. In addition to the sentence, Lionel and Jorge will have to pay €2 million and €1.5 million fines, respectively. This on top of the back taxes and interest on those that Messi has already repaid to the Spanish IRS.
The tax fraud in question relates to a series of overseas shell companies Jorge used to hide his son’s earnings from the tax office for an image rights contract dating back to 2007-09—or, when Lionel was 19-21 years old. The contract in question itself was signed when Messi was a minor.
Originally, the Spanish prosecutors leading the case did not seek to press charges against Lionel as an individual, since they were satisfied by the evidence presented by the Messi camp during the investigation that the player was unaware of any fraud being perpetrated by his father. However, the presiding judge rejected that recommendation and charged him anyway.
Besides any appeal, this wraps up what has been nearly a three-year ordeal. Messi joins athletes like Iker Casillas, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Luis Figo, and Rafa Nadal who have ran afoul of Spain’s tax laws.